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Cracks in case led to husband's arrest in 10-year-old homicide investigation

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Ted Sullivan
September 4, 2008

Sexual affairs might have been the motive for a Burlington man charged with killing his wife, but an unusual bolt used to chain her body on the bottom of Geneva Lake led to his arrest.


David A. Brossard and Dawn M. Brossard were cheating, fighting and discussing divorce in the days leading up to her 1997 disappearance, according to the criminal complaint.


And David is suspected of beating his wife in the head to kill her, then using a distinctive hex bolt to anchor her body in the lake with chains and concrete blocks, according to the criminal complaint and investigators.


Finding the body and tracing the origin of the hex bolt to David’s former employer were two cracks in the 10-year-old cold case.


David, 40, of 7740 Fish Hatchery Road, Burlington, was arrested Tuesday in Menasha where he was working.


He was being held in the Walworth County Jail and was scheduled to appear in Walworth County Court today on the charge of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of his wife, Dawn, who was 29 at the time.


“We had more than 350 leads, and we have followed them all, and the conclusion is that David killed her,” Walworth County Sheriff’s Capt. Dana Nigbor said. “That’s our belief.


“It’s been a long time,” she said. “My detectives did a lot of hard work.”


David’s story

According to the criminal complaint, Dawn was reported missing Oct. 25, 1997, after she didn’t arrive for work at the State Financial Bank of Waterford in Burlington.


Dawn’s vehicle had been in the bank’s parking lot since the previous day, according to the criminal complaint.


The last person to see her alive was David, who told police he met her outside the bank the day before she was reported missing to tell her he didn’t need help removing piers, according to the criminal complaint.


The husband told authorities he talked with Dawn in his truck for 15 minutes in the bank’s parking lot, according to the criminal complaint. He told detectives he asked her out for dinner, but she declined.


David told investigators his wife then exited his truck and walked toward the bank, according to the criminal complaint, and he went home for the night.


He told authorities that Dawn recently had been drinking heavily and was having extra-marital affairs, according to the criminal complaint.


David admitted to having a girlfriend himself, according to the criminal complaint.


He also told investigators he once placed his wife’s wedding gown on the bed with a note that stated “until death do us part,” according to the criminal complaint.


Discrepancies and discoveries

Interviews with witnesses such as the bank’s cleaning crew were inconsistent with David’s story about what happened when he met his wife outside the bank, according to the complaint.


Discrepancies included how long they talked in the truck, whether they left together on foot or separate in vehicles, according to the criminal complaint.


A janitor at the bank reported seeing the couple walking away together about 7 p.m., Oct. 24, 1997, according to the complaint.


Nearly six years later, an off-duty Racine County diver located a body at the bottom of Geneva Lake on July 11, 2003.


The watch on Dawn’s body stopped at about 8:15. A jeweler told detectives the watch would not have operated long after being submerged, according to the complaint.


The body was in 117 feet of water, just off Conference Point near Williams Bay, one of the deepest spots in the lake, according to the criminal complaint.


The body was bound at the knees and chest with several feet of chains, according to the criminal complaint, and concrete blocks were recovered.


An autopsy showed Dawn Brossard suffered traumatic head injuries.


The body was sent to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, and X-rays and dental records revealed that it was Dawn, according to the criminal complaint.


A Walworth County sheriff’s detective interviewed David two days after the body was found, and he appeared shaken up, placing his hands in his pockets and moving his eyes back and forth, according to the criminal complaint.


David told the detective he had to talk to his in-laws, and he claimed he felt like he was going to vomit, according to the complaint.


Long investigation

Two months after the body was found, a woman told investigators she was having an affair with David, and he once told her he was going to wrap his wife in “heavy chains and cement blocks and throw her into the lake where she would never be found,” according to the criminal complaint.


Other neighbors and family members told investigators the couple often fought, and David threatened Dawn, who feared him, according to the complaint.


David had fished in tournaments on Geneva Lake and owned a Cajun brand fishing boat with a 175 horsepower Mercury outboard motor, according to the complaint.


In November 2003, investigators searched Action Marine, the Burlington marina where David worked in 1997 as a mechanic. They reported finding concrete blocks and chains similar to those found with Dawn, according to the criminal complaint.


Two years later, investigators searched Action Marine again and found a hex bolt stamped with three lines and the letters “JH” on the head, according to the criminal complaint.


The bolt was identical to the bolts attached to the chains with Dawn, according to the criminal complaint, and is the type used in chains that connect a buoy to an anchor.


The bolts on the underwater chains were not definitively tied to the marina, but Nigbor, who led the investigation for the last five years, said, “It’s just trying to make the connection that if in fact those were the bolts that were used, there was access to them. They’re similar.


“It’s just another piece to the puzzle.”


TIMELINE

Some of the events in the 10-year investigation into Dawn Brossard’s disappearance and murder include:


Oct. 24, 1997—Dawn Brossard meets her husband, David, outside a bank after work.


Oct. 25, 1997—Dawn is reported missing, and David is interviewed twice by investigators.


Oct. 27, 1997—David is interviewed again.


July 11, 2003—A body is found in the bottom of Geneva Lake with concrete blocks and chains.


July 12, 2003—An autopsy reveals the body is Dawn’s.


July 13, 2003—David is told his wife’s body was found in the lake.


November 2003—Investigators find concrete blocks and chains during a search of Action Marine, David’s former employer. The chains are similar to those used to anchor Dawn’s body in the lake.


September 2005—A New York City FBI team of 12 divers arrives in Williams Bay to help with the investigation.


November 2005—Investigators again search Action Marine, finding a hex bolt stamped with three lines and the letters “JH” on the head, much like the bolts attached to the chains with Dawn.


May 2008—Investigators confirm that the type of hex bolt found with the body was used at Action Marine in 1997 while David was employed by the business.


Tuesday—David is arrested on a charge of first-degree intentional homicide.



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